NYC, youth groups urge Congress to prioritize FOI

11059489_1153375844675938_4101770527662578113_nThe National Youth Commission [NYC] on Friday renewed its call to Congress to prioritize the passage of the Freedom of Information [FOI] Law.

Together with youth advocates, the youth commission urged the House of Representatives leadership to ensure the passage of the measure in the last session of the 16th Congress.

The FOI Law seeks to institutionalize transparency in the government by ensuring that ordinary citizens have access to information on government transactions.

Since the filing of the first FOI bill more than two decades ago, the measure seemingly reached stagnation in the 16th Congress with some members of the House leadership throwing the towel citing pre-occupation to the passage of the National Budget and the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Deliberations on the bill are still in the committee level in the House of Representatives.  Similar to the 15thCongress, the Senate has approved its version of the bill.

NYC Chairperson Gio Tingson, in a press conference held in Quezon City, maintained that for its last session, “all eyes are on FOI”.

Tingson said that the FOI is an integral element of the administration’s Good Governance and Anti-Corruption Plan of 2012-16.

“The passage of the FOI will cement the reforms this administration has gained in the past years. The FOI will institutionalize Daang Matuwid”, he remarked.

During the 2010 elections, then-Senator Benigno Simeon Aquino III ran his presidential campaign on the platform of anti-corruption and good governance with FOI as one of the legislative agenda.

FOI bill is for the youth

According to the youth agency, ensuring citizens’ right of access to information will boost citizen participation.

“Young people will be more encouraged to participate in the affairs of the government once trust is built through transparency, accountability and good governance”, the youth agency argued.

Young people are hopeful

Akbayan! Youth, for its part, maintained that young people should be clamoring for Congress to pass the bill into law, especially with limited time.

Congresspersons will be filing their candidacy in October this year. Congress is also set to declare a recess in the same month, with most of its members gearing up for elections next year.

James Alih, representative of Akbayan! Youth, maintained that a two-month window period will be enough. “Political will and due diligence are required from our legislators”, he said.

In an earlier statement, the FOI Youth Initiative [FYI], a coalition of youth and student organizations advocating for the passage of the FOI Law, reminded Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr of his assurance in 2014 that the measure will be passed in the 16th Congress.

“We will hold on to this promise of the House Speaker”, said the youth coalition. The Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, a nationwide union of student councils, also joined the call of the FYI.

“Walang forever” sa FOI

NYC Chairperson Tingson, for his part, urged legislators to listen to youth groups’ appeals.  “These are hopeful young people who want to believe in “forever”, pero hindi sana “forever” din ang antayan para sa FOI”, he remarked. [These are young people who want to believe in forever, but we hope that the passage of the FOI into law will not take “forever”.] #

For the Filipino youth, 
JOEMIER D. PONTAWE
Programs Officer
Office of the Chairperson and the Chief Executive Officer
National Youth Commission
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